By JOHN GORALSKI
Since the first class of inductees was celebrated in 2010, the Southington Sports Hall of Fame selection committee has teased sports fans each year with a seemingly endless list of locals whose careers have continued long after college graduation.
Inductees have gone on to compete in NFL championship games and World Series contests. Golfers have competed at PGA events, and others have competed professionally in baseball, football, and a few lesser known sports.
The list of inductees has included television broadcasters and radio personalities. It’s included college soccer coaches, track coaches, athletic directors, and just about every other sport imaginable.
But this year marks another first in a long list of elite athletic accomplishments. Southington is already known as the only town in Connecticut that boasts two former athletes with world series rings and another with an NFL championship under his belt, but the ninth class of the Southington Sports Hall of Fame will take it one step further.
This year marks the first Olympian to be inducted into the local hall of fame.
Selection committee chair Dennnis J. Stanek Jr. said that this shouldn’t surprise anyone. With one former Blue Knight currently pitching in the major leagues and a number of minor leaguers that still haven’t been inducted, there will be no shortage of top athletes for years to come.
“It’s starting to become a little more clear about who we need to nominate and pick, but it’s still hypercompetitive,” said Stanek. “These athletes in year nine are just as fortunate, blessed, and talented as those athletes in the earlier years. One can make the argument that the folks being put in this year could have all been put in four or five years ago.”
Stacey Blumer, a freestyle skiing pioneer that competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics, anchors a superstar list to be inducted this fall as the Southington Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018. The list includes seven athletes, a legendary high school coach, and two high school teams that captured baseball and softball titles on the same day, just a few hours apart, in the spring of 1999.
Blumer will be joined by former Lady Knight stars Heather Brousseu, Kristine Mach, and Lauren Lattanzio. The foursome represents teams that competed in every season, from winter to summer.
The male inductees include former professional baseball players Mark LaRosa and Kevin Meier, along with Hank Papale, a former SHS gridiron star that still has a stranglehold on the Connecticut High School Football record book.
Former Lady Knight softball coach John Bores will complete the list of household names. Bores captured state titles and national records during a long, versatile Southington career that spanned four decades. He coached in every season and at almost every local level from middle school soccer to high school basketball and softball.
Stanek said that few towns can boast such a variety of talent across different sports, seasons, and eras, but that’s what makes the Southington Sports Hall of Fame so unique. Since 2010, Southington has inducted over 130 athletes, coaches, teams, media members, boosters, and fans.
Stanek said that the fact that the ninth class still includes professional athletes and Olympians is a testament to the entire community. “It starts with the coaches, the parents, and the support from the boosters. It starts with those folks that pay for advertisements on Little League signs and scorebooks,” he said. “It’s always been a really broad-based, community approach toward supporting athletics at all levels. Southington is good at developing athletes from swimming to football and even lacrosse—which is one of the newer sports.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, this group will be honored in an induction ceremony at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. Tickets will be available soon and will cost $50. To reserve tickets, contact Jim Verderame at (860) 628-7335 or Val DePaolo at (860) 620-9460, ext. 104.
“The banquet has grown better every year, and it brings the whole community together,” said Stanek. It’s a really nice event and a good dinner. It’s a lot of fun to recognize those athletes that poured their hearts out to bring victories to this town. It’s great to see them all on stage for one night.”
Don’t worry, Stanek said that the committee isn’t ready to rest on its laurels. Officials have already begun compiling statistics for next year’s induction class, and they continue to welcome nominations from the public.
“The committee looks at all the statistics and tries to get a broad spectrum of men and women in all sports,” he said, “as well as coaches, boosters, and media members to provide for a fair and fresh look at a really top notch hall of fame.”
To nominate a team, player, booster, or media member, send a request, along with supporting documentation, statistics, and contact information to: Mike Boissonneault, 115 Panthorn Trail, Southington, CT 06489, (860) 628-5225, email – firstname.lastname@example.org.